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China to Honor WTO Commitments
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China would fulfill its World Trade Organization (WTO) commitments Minister of Commerce Bo Xilai vowed yesterday.


At a ceremony to mark China's five-year WTO partnership Bo said all market sectors would be opened up on schedule. Here he was referring especially to banking and telecommunications. By December 11, the fifth anniversary of China's accession to the WTO, these two sectors must be open to foreign firms.


Bo said China would play an active roll in helping revive the Doha Round of WTO talks which aim to further liberalize world trade. "We're proud of China's tremendous courage in opening markets and in welcoming internationally competitive companies here," said Bo.


"According to a recent study most European companies in China have faith in the nation's commitment to the WTO," said Serge Janssens de Varebeke, president of the European Union (EU) Chamber of Commerce in China.


"We're surprised at the extremely good progress China has made in opening-up," noted Ian Duffy, president of Ikea Asia-Pacific.


China's accession to the WTO has paved the way for increased growth and stronger trade relations. In 2005 China surpassed the United Kingdom to become the world's fourth largest economy and the world's third largest exporter. The EU remains China's largest trading partner and China the EU's second biggest.


"I’m confident that in the next five years China's economy will keep growing in a sustainable, steady and healthy way and remain one of the fastest rising in the world," said Bo.


By 2010 China's market size and imports are expected to reach US$3.3 trillion and US$1 trillion respectively and imports from the EU are projected to be US$130 billion. Despite the achievements China has made many still have concerns as the WTO deadline approaches.


"I don't think they've gone far enough as they've not opened the renminbi business to foreign banks but there are a few months to go and also some regulations and laws are still not transparent," said Thomas W. Felber, general manager of the European Chamber.


"Transparency and intellectual property rights (IPR) are our main concerns," said Janssens de Varebeke.


Bo was more upbeat. "We are actively promoting market-opening and I promise China will fully open all markets especially banking and telecommunications, before the deadline."


Bo also said the Chinese Government was getting tougher on IPR. "Maybe some are not happy about the degree of punishments for IPR infringements but we're trying every means to crack down." There are more than 400,000 people employed to protect IPR in China.  


Foreign participants at the ceremony urged China to continue to open its markets.


"December 11 will be a milestone and I hope it won't be an end," said Felber. "I expect to see many other milestones in the future." 


"All companies have experienced a dynamic Chinese market in the last five years but this is just a starting point," Bo said


In July the Doha Round was suspended after six leading trade powers failed to agree on a plan to cut tariffs on agricultural products.


(China Daily September 5, 2006)

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